Carpe Diem: Eurotrip 2016

The Day I Almost Died on A Bike

I did not spend enough time in Germany. I mean, granted I haven’t spent enough time in any of the places I’ve been, but there’s something about Germany that makes me wish I could have stayed much longer.

We started off with breakfast at our little hotel in St. Goar. Breakfast there was scant. They pretty much had bread, cheese, cereal, and coffee. After our late night out the previous night before I think everyone was craving a breakfast on the heartier side, but we did with what we had.

Matt kind of tore into us because of how loud we had been the night before. Honestly we weren’t even that rowdy, I think it was just a bad combination of echoing hallways and poor vocal volume control. Also, a few of us had been late to the bus, so we got spoken to about that as well. I think it’s sufficient to say that Matt is now our dad, and he’s only yelling at us because he loves us (and doesn’t like to be scolded by German hotel owners about loud English-speaking tourists.)

For a good portion of the bus ride, Matt was having people come to the front of the bus and pay for their optional excursions. I’ve been hogging the front seat of the bus to myself, while Matt took the front seat across the aisle. I paid my bill early (my poor little credit card is not a fan of me right now). When anyone was waiting for Matt to be finished working with someone else, they came and sat next to me while they were waiting. It was kind of nice, because I got to talk to everyone for a brief amount of time. Pretty much everyone commented on the view. “Oh, you’ve got the best seat here!” I’d reply, “I know, I’m not letting anyone take it, it’s mine now.” After a little while Matt was thanking me for keeping his clients busy while they waited. We decided I was his de facto secretary. After the same thing happened with about 5 or 6 people I started saying “Matt will see you now,” before sending them to the other side of the aisle.

We stopped at a service area for snacks, and we came across these odd tennis ball sized and shaped…pastry? Sure, we’ll go with that. They were called schneeballs. They appeared to be bready dough that was rolled thin, cut into strips, and then crumpled into balls. No organization, just a ball of dough strips. They were all coated in different toppings and flavors: chocolate, coconut, cinnamon, powdered sugar, etc. A few of us grabbed some to try, completely unsure of how they would taste. They were very interesting, kind of dense. They were a harder consistency, kind of like a shortbread cookie. They were very hard to eat also. I got chocolate and coconut all over myself. But now I can say I’ve eaten a schneeball in Germany.

We still had about 3 hours until we got to Munich, so to kill time, we organized the front half of the bus and played a rowdy game of Heads Up. This was an interesting game to play with so many people from different cultures. We often kept landing on the category of “animals” because almost everyone knows every animal. A few stumped some people. The Aussies didn’t know what gnats are, we found out. Chrisleen from South Africa nailed an impression of a seal with clapping hands, barking and everything. That was hilarious. We played for a good hour and a half, and then found ourselves back in our most common conversation, the theme of which was “People from other places say things weird.” Sweatshirts are “jumpers” in about every other country of the world. I don’t have “bangs” as part of my haircut, but rather a “fringe.” We even fought about how to pronounce “castle.” North Americans are the only ones who don’t pronounce it with a long A like in “father.” These conversations are all in good fun and oftentimes lead to arguments. You start drawing country lines when you start questioning terminology.

Soon we were in Munich and we had a short while in our rooms to freshen up before heading out for our bike tour. While on the bus on the way into town, Matt taught us a handful of German drinking songs. The first one, “Ein Proset,” is a popular one they always play at beer halls. The second one, “Fliegerlied,” was the best one. It’s originally a children’s song turned drinking song. So, already we’re talking awesome.The real reason why it’s the best is because it has a dance that goes along with it, including animal motions and arm waving. That one is so much fun, I plan to teach it to all of my friends.

I was excited for the bike tour, because I love biking, and I love new cities, so this was going to be the best of both worlds. We met up with our tour guides, Matt (yep, now there are two Matts) and Chris, who were Canadian and Australian, respectively. Matt had pre-warned us that these guys liked to cross the line with their jokes, which, very quickly, was a fact we found to be true. They were really funny though. After a brief safety overview, they started passing out the bikes. Towards the beginning, they called out, “Where’s your shortest girl?” I raised my hand and everyone also pointed at me all at the same time. Yep, that’s me, I know it. I got a purple bike, whereas all the other girls’ bikes were teal and the boys’ were blue. I’m thinking the purple ones were special for shrimps. Whatever, it made it easy to find in a cluster of bikes. He told us to build a connection with our bikes, and name them if that helps. I mentally named mine Veronica.

The bike tour was amazing. We rode along, weaving in and around the streets of Munich, trying not to hit anyone. We pulled off and ditched the bikes so that our tour guides could give us a few history lessons and show us some cool monuments. We played a game called “Mullet” in which anytime we saw someone with a mullet, we were to yell “mullet” at the top of our lungs and have everyone else repeat after us. Another game was “Stranger Danger,” In which case if anyone tried to join our tour group who we didn’t know, we were to yell “stranger danger!” and all squat down at the same time to freak out our trespassers. We’d also have to turn around all at the same time and look at them creepily if they didn’t leave. In case you weren’t getting the gist of this tour, it wasn’t exactly traditional. We then went to a giant beautiful catholic church in the center of town. We were only there for a minute but I still lit a candle for Great Memere.

On the next leg of the journey we went through the park in Munich, which was absolutely stunning. It’s 20% bigger than Central Park, so it’s huge. There was a big open meadow, a waterfall, a river, gorgeous trees that smelled like heaven. In addition, there were also nudists hanging around the river. Ah, Europe. According to our tour guide, there were plenty of nudists, and all of them were over 65, and men, so yeah. What a treat.

Within the park we rode to the Chinese Biergarden, the second largest biergarden in the world. Whilst there, we sampled some fine German cuisine. Alright, so, in America we have Italian food, Chinese, Mexican, French sometimes. Where is the German food, America? German food is AMAZING and you don’t often hear about it. I, as per usual, stocked up on way too much food so that I could have a taste of everything. Everyone else got like one plate, I had a tray with schnitzel, some farm potatoes, a giant soft pretzel, and a cheese spread to dip it in. All of it was to die for. I’m going to open a German restaurant in Boston so I can eat it every day. We also all got beers of course, this is Germany we’re talking about. The traditional beer I sampled was called “Hellis” which is awesome obviously because it sounds like my name. As my new Australians would say, it was “quite nice.” Of course at the biergarden they sell it in liters, so we’re talking quite a lot of beer. When in Germany, do as the Germans.

What came next was interesting. We got to the park on bikes, so we had to leave on bikes. After stuffing our faces, and drinking liters of beer. Hm. What could go wrong? We all hopped back on the bikes and away we went wobbling off. Even more challenging this time was going through a couple of streetlights. Our guide instructed us to just “dominate, not hesitate” to avoid getting hit by a car. Fantastic, we are “avoiding” getting hit by a car. Great. So we wobble on down the street, come to the streetlight, the light turns, and we all barrel across. As I was riding a car came whizzing by me and my heart stopped. In hindsight it wasn’t that close, but close enough to scare me. I turned to the girls behind me and said, “Oh, alright, that’s it. This is how I die: on a bike, in Munich.”

I loved the bike tour, but the one thing that kind of sucked about it was that I was whizzing through this gorgeous city and I barely took any photos. Another reason why I need to go back to Germany. It was so beautiful, so architecturally gorgeous and also really relaxed. I got like a college town vibe from it. Everyone was just happy and chill, laying on the lawn in the park, going out for beers… Yup sounds like college to me.

Following our bike tour, in case we hadn’t sampled enough German beer, we were off to the Hoffbrauhaus, the most famous beer hall in Munich. It’s probably half famous for being a fun place for a giant beer, salty pretzels, and polka music played by old men in leiderhosen. It’s also famous for being the place where Hitler held many of his first Nazi Party meetings, so…less happy history there. I sat with Madison and Olivia and we all ordered another giant German beer, this time one called a radler, which is half beer, half lemonade. Our tour guide referred to it as “girly beer,” which it was. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t delicious!

After our beer, we had either the option to hop the coach back to the hotel, or we could stay in town and find our own way back. We decided to go back to the hotel. The three of us were walking back, and we came across Matt, our bicycle tour guide, not our trip manager. It was his birthday and he was celebrating with some other tour guides at a bar on our way back. “Where are you guys going?” he asked us. “Back to the hotel.” He looked at us like we were crazy. “Back to the hotel? It’s 9:30.” He was right. It was still light out. He argued with us for a little while, asking us to stay with them at the bars and have another drink. We protested. Then he said, “You’ve only got one life, and who knows when you’ll make it back to Munich.”

We kept walking. We made our way back to the coach. Almost the whole tour group was on there. I gave my room key back to Charmaine, Olivia gave hers to Madison, and the two of us went back to the bar to hang out with the tour guides. Contiki’s slogan is “No Regrets,” so we decided to take advantage of what we had in front of us. First, we wanted to see Marianplatz, the center square of Munich. We hadn’t gone through on our bike tour, and we wanted to see it. We weren’t sure how to find it, so we asked Matt. He said, “I’ll take you!” We thanked him a million times over. He brought us on a short walk to the square and before long we were greeted by the Town Hall, gave us a little history lesson, and took our photo. It was like a private tour!

Afterwards we went back to the bar and hung out there for a little while. It was funny, when many people stay out, they try to go crazy and be silly and do ridiculous things, but Olivia and I instead, as super nerds, found ourselves engaged in intellectual conversations about politics, social issues, and culture. Again, I am in super nerd heaven. My night in Munich lasted, instead of 9:30, until 12:30. We toasted to Matt on his birthday, thanked him again for our mini-tour, and just for inspiring us to stay out a bit longer than the norm. No regrets.

We hopped a cab right outside the bar. Our cab driver seemed really unsure of our destination. I felt like the poor souls on the Amazing Race, at the mercy of the cab driver to get to their next challenge. Except in this story we just prayed we could get back to our tour group before dawn. Luckily we made it back, no issues, no problems. Thank you, Munich driver.

I felt bad waking up my roomie to let me in, but I was happy to be back in my room. I was lucky in Munich, as our room was divided into two smaller bedrooms. I got to be the one in the singleton room, which worked out because I worried less about waking them up! Wunderbar night in Munich. Prost!

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